Turning great ideas into healthier communities


Tracking California

Tracking California mobilizes data to identify and understand pollution and disease, assisting Californians to take action and create healthier communities. We help community groups, government agencies, researchers, and communities shine a spotlight on environmental hazards and other factors that impact community health.

Program Director(s)

Paul English
Eric Roberts

Program Site



Pesticide Exposures and Risk of Preterm Birth

This subcontract is contributing to the exposure assessment research project proposed by Dr. Gary Shaw of Stanford University. The California Environmental Health Tracking Program will, for example, provide input on the analysis of pesticide exposure for study subjects born in 8 California counties during 1997-2011; geocode addresses from birth certificates for 250,000-300,000 births; and link geocoded addresses to pesticide exposure metrics. 

Analysis of Hospital Claims Data Associated with Elevated Temperatures

This analysis uses claims data from a sample of hospitals to estimate increases in medical care services and costs associated with elevated temperatrues during the period 2007-2012.

Assessment of Environmental Health Data for the California/Mexico Border

This project's goals are to: publish a report presenting environmental health data, trends, and state/national comparisons for the California/Baja California border region; conduct a quality assurance assessment of data sources, including metadata documentation; develop a template that other U.S./Mexico Border regions could use; and produce recommendations and strategies on binational data exchange, and further data collection and integration of Mexican data.




California Breast Cancer Mapping Project

The California Breast Cancer Mapping Project analyzed breast cancer rates by census tract, as opposed to traditional county-level surveillance, and pinpointed four previously unidentified areas of California with rates substantially higher than the state average.

California Environmental Health Tracking Network - Network Implementation

The California Environmental Health Tracking Network implementation project emphasizes the development of spatial analysis and visualization methods that enable state-of-the-art systems for predicting geographically related exposures to environmental hazards and relating those exposures to health indicators. This advances the fundamental goals of the Environmental Public Health Tracking program.

California Environmental Health Tracking Program CDC Support

The California Environmental Health Tracking Program conducts activities to maintain and enhance the Tracking Network, which will provide information to communities and other stakeholders to improve public health. Activities will strengthen environmental public health capacity, and provide access to health/environmental data for decision makers and the public they can use to implement programs, interventions and policies to address environmental health.

California Oil and Gas Real Time Air Monitoring

The goals of this project are to: 1) Produce materials and help with community meeting planning and presentations; 2) Review and provide input on monitor host training or recruitment materials and 3) Assist in planning of report dissemination strategy.

Capacity Building for Sickle Cell Disease Surveillance

Funded by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, this one year effort provides technical assistance to 7 states that are seeking to establish a sickle cell disease surveillance system similar to California's SCDC Program. Partners in this work are the Georgia Health Policy Center (which conducts the SCDC program in Georgia), and the CDC. This work also supports the development of a sophisticated data linkage system for rare disease surveillance.

Emergency Department Data for Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment

The Environmental Health Tracking program will provide the California EPA Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment with statewide data related to asthma and heart attack emergency department visits by census track or zip code.

EpiMapVis: A Climate and Remote Sensing Information System for Health Studies

The goal of this proposal is to develop a dynamic, web-based climate change and remote sending visualization system to support ongoing tracking activities of the California Environmental Health Tracking Program. A user needs and design assessment is being conducted to ensure the end users have improved access and usability of data.

Fire and Water: Investigating Drinking Water Contamination in Paradise, California after the Camp Fire

The Camp fire in November 2018 decimated the towns of Paradise and Magalia, California, burning nearly 14,000 homes but leaving about 1,700 homes in the area intact. Returning residents are now facing an unexpected threat: benzene contamination in the drinking water. This study is designed to answer the following questions: (1) What are the benzene and other volatile organic compounds (VOC) concentrations inside homes? (2) Are there other contaminants, whether regulated or non-regulated, in the water system? and (3) Are there clues to the source of the contamination? We will collect samples from 10% of unburned homes (approximately 175 homes) for benzene and VOC analysis, and will do innovative non-targeted analyses at 20 homes to try to determine the source of the contamination. More information about the study is available here.

Greenaction Technical Assistance for Community Air Monitoring Project

The Tracking California program is providing technical assistance to Greenaction for Health and Environmental Justice for the Community Air Monitoring Project by providing 1) Particulate matter monitoring; 2) Community engagement; 3) Data compilation and analysis; 4) Community outreach, training, and educational materials and 5) Performance evaluation.

Harmful Algal Bloom Health Impact Reporting

As a part of the California Environmental Health Tracking Program (CDC funding), we partner with the state Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment, the State Water Resources Control Boards, the Department of Fish and Wildlife, and the California Poison Control System to identify and investigate cases of human, domestic animal, and wildlife health impacts associated with exposure to freshwater algal blooms. These are reported to the CDC's One Health Harmful Algal Bloom System (OH HABS).

Identifying Patients with Thalassemia

We are working with researchers at UCSF Benioff Children's Hospital Oakland and Children's Hospital of Oakland Research Institute to determine ways of identifying persons with an elevated probability of having thalassemia (a genetic hemoglobin disorder often not identified at birth but with serious health implications over the life course). This work is funded and directed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Local, Scientifically Valid Geospatial Measures to Assess Community Vulnerability to Climate Change in California

This project focuses on developing a set of geospatial layers for Fresno and Los Angeles counties that can establish the likelihood of community-level heat islands and heat vulnerability. This can be used as a screening tool to guide policy makers and communities in efforts to address climate change impacts.

Metropolitan Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis Surveillance

Funded by the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry, this effort gathered data from every neurology practice in the San Francisco Bay Area and Los Angeles County to determine the incidence and prevalence of ALS in these areas. These data were used to validate the national ALS registry.

Metropolitan Area-Based Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis Surveillance

In collaboration with McKing Consulting Service, this subcontract provides the Centerse for Disease Control and Prevention with data and analyses on the accuracy of data collected about Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis from the metropolitan area surveillance systems.

National Environmental Public Health Tracking Program-Network Implementation: California

The goals of this project are to: 1) maintain, enhance and expand the California Environmental Health Public Health Tracking (EPHT) Network; 2) maintain and enhance standards-compliant network information technology infrastructure; 3) increase the utility of tracking data and information; and 4) increase stakeholder capacity to access, understand and utilize EPHT data and information to carry out public health functions.

Pregnancy Exposures to Pesticides as Risk Factors for Structural Birth Defects in Infants

The California Environmental Health Tracking Program (CEHTP) will contribute to the exposure assessment research. Among other activities, CEHTP will obtain the geocodes (latitude, longitude) of approximately 6,000 birth defect cases and controls' maternal addresses (blinded to case/control status) and will link the geocodes to 1997-2008 agricultural pesticide use in California using the CEHTP pesticide linkage system

Project Heat Wave Magnitudes and Public Health Impacts

The goal of this project is to develop an analytic framework to advance knowledge of the relationship between ambient heat and morbidity and mortality as well as the underlying determinants of risk. This information can be translated into public health policy guidelines that reflect current (and future projected) climatological conditions.

Sickle Cell Data Collection Program

The California Sickle Cell Data Collection Program is funded by CDC Foundation - its aim is to create a public health surveillance system at the state level to track health impacts for all those with SCD, including adults and children, those receiving high quality specialty care and those without access. We use these data to inform policy makers, researchers, and those with the disease, to improve health outcomes and quality of life.

Sickle Cell Trait Pilot Surveillance

Funded by the National Institutes of Health, this grant supports a collaboration with the CA Dept of Public Health's Genetic Disease Screening Program to link the state's newborn screening identified cases of sickle cell trait (the carrier status for parents of those with sickle cell disease) to vital records data. This effort, if successful, will set the stage for linking these data to health outcomes data to better understand health impacts of sickle cell trait.

State Funding for Sickle Cell Disease Surveillance

Governor Newsom signed into law state-appropriated funding to support sickle cell disease surveillance in 2019. These funds support expanded data collection and linkage, and increased staff time for analysis, health education, and collaboration among stakeholders.

The Parkinson’s Registry Investigation of Diagnosis and Etiology (PRIDE) Study

The California Environmental Health Tracking Program (CEHTP) will assist the Northern California Institute for Research & Education's (NCIRE) exposure assessment research project by 1) Providing input on the analysis of hazards exposure for approximately 3,400 study subject in Santa Clara County; 2) Geocoding addresses and linking geocode addresses to hazard exposure metrics to be determined; 3) Returning all summarized exposure data linked to addresses to SCC Parkinson's Disease Registry for analysis; 4) Providing ongoing consultation regarding statistical analysis of the data produced and 5) Contributing to the writing of manuscripts.

Use of Community-Based Mapping and Monitoring to Reduce Air Pollution Exposures

This project's goals are to: 1) engage community members to define and map local hazards and assets to highlight factors contributing to cumulative exposures, community vulnerability and resilience; 2) deploy a network of inexpensive real-time air monitors that relay data to the Internet for immediate information on pollution levels; 3) use state of the art land use regression modeling to develop the most accurate and detailed picture possible of PM10, PM2.5, and NO2 exposures tin the county to identify hot spots near vulnerable populations; 4) develop a public health action plan for reducing exposures, improving health, and ensuring project sustainability; and 5) evaluate the project.

Water Boundary Tool Pilot Project

This project aims to expand California's Water Boundary Tool (WBT) infrastructure to enable its use by other State Environmental Public Health Tracking Networks and their drinking water regulatory organizations and public water systems. The ultimate vision is to establish a national WBT that will enable every drinking water service area in the US to be mapped and tracked over time. A central website will be developed, potentially with different state-specific sub-directories.

Here's How We're Making a Difference

Calculating the Costs of Environmental Health Conditions in California Children

Eliminating exposures to preventable environmental hazards related to four childhood health conditions could save families and the state of California $254 million annually, and prevent losses of $10-13 billion over the lifetime of all children born in a single year, revealed a 2015 report from PHI's California Environmental Health Tracking Program (now known as Tracking California). 

Explore the report and accompanying graphics. 



Connecting Wildfires to the Public's Health

As wildfires of record heat and intensity roared the Western U.S. and other parts of the world, PHI experts linked these incidents—and their aftermaths—to health. In 2019 PHI's Dr. Linda Rudolph called for better evacuation planning (especially for vulnerable populations, like the elderly and people with disabilities), and helped health departments prep for future incidents. A research study, led by PHI's Dr. Gina Solomon, looked at the state of water in areas affected by the Paradise Camp Fire—with implications for other communities across the globe that have experienced super-heated wildfires. She checked water in homes for contaminants that had leached into local water supplies. Learn more.

Exposing A Hidden Problem through Groundbreaking Research: Lead Poisoning in the United States

How many children in the United States suffer from lead poisoning? A 2017 PHI study shows that the numbers of lead-poisoned children may be much higher than previously reported.

Using new analytical methods, PHI's California Environmental Health Tracking Program (now Tracking California) estimated that during 1999 - 2010, most states may have missed more than half of their lead-poisoned children, finding only 2 out of every 3 children poisoned by lead. The study found states where more than 80% of lead-poisoned children could remain unidentified—and researchers expect that testing rates have only declined in the subsequent years.

The findings suggest that recent lead poisoning estimates that are based solely on clinical data are too low, and that without swift and decisive action, many lead-poisoned children will remain undiagnosed.

Read the study, see the interactive maps, and view the infographic.

This study was cited in the bill analysis for AB 1316, a bill the California legislature passed with unanimous support requiring the Department of Public Health to revise regulations for when children are tested for lead exposure. The study found that in California, only 37% of children with elevated blood lead levels were identified.

Now, for the first time, doctors will be required to consider factors including proximity to lead smelters or freeways or drinking from lead-contaminated plumbing, which could expose the child to lead. The state will also have to ensure that children with high levels of exposure receive the appropriate interventions. The public health department estimates that implementation of AB 1316 may result in 300,000 more children being tested for lead each year.

Improving Access to Care for 6,000-7,000 Californians with SCD

Prior to 2019, there were few providers and resources for the thousands of Californians suffering from sickle cell disease (SCD). PHI’s California Sickle Cell Data Collection program presented their findings on challenges faced by those with SCD at a Sacramento hearing, in May. Shortly after, the Assembly Bill 1105 was passed by the legislature and signed by Governor Newsom to support more clinics/knowledgeable care providers in the state, workforce development for this disease, and surveillance capacity. As of December 2018, California’s legislature has committed $15 million toward the enhancement of adult sickle cell disease care.

Inspired Communities to Protect Themselves Against Harmful Pesticides

A study conducted by PHI’s Tracking California alerted Monterey County residents that they had the highest percentage of California students with pesticide applications happening in close proximity to their schools. Now, families at ten Monterey County schools are being notified when pesticides are being sprayed. The study, along with key recommendations in the PHI report “Starting Strong in California,” also strengthened momentum to enact a statewide ban on chlorpyrifos and to begin the transition to safer alternatives. Learn more. 

Tracking Heat Vulnerability and Related Illness

Photos by Tim Wagner for Partnership for the Public's HealthClimate change brings with it growing numbers of extreme heat days. Cooling stations and good planning can save lives during heat events, and cool roofs and urban parks reduce heat effects and offer places for physical activity and social connection. Tracking and surveillance are the first steps.

PHI’s work on tracking heat vulnerability and heat-related illness and death in California and the U.S. provides the data to identify which areas and individuals are most vulnerable, and to formulate strategies to minimize heat impact.

Tracking Pesticide Use Near Schools

Spurred by a 2014 report by PHI’s California Environmental Health Tracking Program (now called Tracking California)—which found huge racial disparities between the pesticide exposure of Hispanic and white children at schools—in 2016 California introduced new regulations on the use of agricultural pesticides applied near to schools and day-care facilities.

The CEHTP report found that Hispanic children were 46% more likely than white children to attend schools with any pesticides of concern applied nearby, and they were 91% more likely than white children to attend schools in areas with the highest use of pesticides.

In response, California introduced new regulations on the use of agricultural pesticides applied near schools and day-care facilities. The new regulations prohibit many pesticide applications close to public K-12 schools and child day-care facilities during school hours. Additionally, public K-12 schools and child day-care facilities will now be informed when certain pesticide applications are made within a quarter mile of these schools and facilities. 

Uncovering Health Trends along the California-Baja California Border

The California-Baja California border region has unique environmental health challenges stemming from rapid population growth, the movement of people and goods, and industrial activities. Historically, it’s difficult to assess these challenges over time because data are often collected by different agencies, at varying geographic resolutions, and reported with diverse metrics that may not be comparable across time or geographic borders.

Reaching out to new stakeholders working on environmental health in the California-Baja California border region—including contacts in Mexican government and academia—the California Environmental Health Tracking Program, now called Tracking California, collected and analyzed many of these datasets to assess environmental health trends and needs for priority health concerns, identify data gaps and needs in existing environmental health data resources, and provide recommendations to more systematically share environmental health data along the U.S.-Mexico border region.

Using New Mapping Techniques to Identify Elevated Breast Cancer Rates

Research by the Public Health Institute’s (PHI) California Breast Cancer Mapping Project (CBCMP), a project of the California Environmental Health Tracking Program (now Tracking California), pinpointed four previously unidentified areas of California that have invasive breast cancer rates substantially higher than the state average. As opposed to traditional breast cancer surveillance, which relies on aggregate county-level data, the CBCMP developed and implemented a protocol to map breast cancer rates within and across county boundaries by looking at data (obtained from the Cancer Registry of Greater California, or CRGC) by census tract. This identified the four areas of concern, or groups of census tracts that showed invasive breast cancer rates 10-20 percent higher than the state average between 2000-2008. The four “areas of concern” encompass sections of Ventura, Los Angeles, Riverside and Orange counties, as well as parts of the north and south Bay Area. Since these areas span sections of multiple counties, they had never been identified by traditional county-level surveillance as having elevated breast cancer rates.


Using Real-Time Air Monitoring to Reduce Pollution Risk

Partnering with the University of Washington, Clean Water Action, and the Kern Environmental Enforcement Network, PHI’s California Environmental Health Tracking Program (now called Tracking California) piloted the use of low-cost air-monitors and canister samplers at residences in Lost Hills California, a low-income community in the Central Valley at the fenceline of oil and gas operations.

The project successfully deployed three monitors, which worked to detect levels of particulate matter and volatile organic compounds at each site. Participants at residences learned about the installation and operation of the low cost monitors, and the community at large learned about pollution measurement and about contaminants of concern. The pilot project also demonstrated the feasibility of deploying low-cost sensors near oil and gas operations, which can be used to display real-time information to help keep communities safe.

Working With Imperial County Communities to Monitor Air Quality

In California’s Imperial County, asthma rates are among the highest in the state. PHI’s California Environmental Health Tracking Program worked with partners and community members to launch IVAN Air Monitoring, which uses air quality monitors that provide real-time data so that parents, schools and community members can protect health and advocate for cleaner air policy. Children in Imperial County have an asthma ER rate that is nearly twice the state average, and particulate pollution often exceeds state standards for more than six months at a time. 

Before a recent collaboration with PHI’s California Environmental Health Tracking Program (now known as Tracking California), residents lacked a reliable source of data on air quality in their neighborhoods. The project, undertaken through a collaboration between local organization Comite Civico del Valle and CEHTP, installed air quality monitors around the county that collect data and then made it accessible through a community air monitoring website called IVAN Air Monitoring, putting real-time information in residents’ hands. Leveraging this new data, parents, schools and community members will­ protect the health of themselves and their children, and advocate for cleaner air policy going forward.

Learn more about this work.